I’m saddened again to read the results of research that has once again validated something that’s been true since the internet began showing up in the home – many kids participate in online activity that is secret and hidden from their parents.
I’ve sat with many parents who claim their “child would never do anything like that,” only to weep with them later when they learn their child did exactly what they thought could never happen.
Almost no student can survive today without some kind of online access. They need it for textbooks and homework assignments. It benefits communication and provides access to research material far beyond what I ever had in my high school library. It also opens the door to risky and secret possibilities. The greatest danger is parents who naively sit without concern for online pitfalls.
I strongly recommend parents control content AND devices within their home. Every parent has to work to stay aware of what level of access each device has. From the time a child can spell, they begin to get an interest in what words mean – especially words they perceive to be bad or questionable. They WILL search online for answers. They will discover shocking content. Put time limits on access to devices. Put devices on lockdown within your home. Create a spot where they MUST be and define the time(s) they must be there.
In our home, devices are not allowed upstairs. Every infraction forces a penalty. Our kids have gone days, weeks, months, semesters without certain devices. Yes, it makes life tougher on us as parents when a kid isn’t quickly reachable via cellphone. Computer work must be done on the family computer…that is attached to our big screen TV. Everyone can see what’s happening at all times. In fact, our neighbors can see what’s on that screen. These aren’t failsafe guidelines; but they help raise the wall of protection.
We have passwords with content control on our kid’s devices and phones. I’m not stupid. I know they can access stuff through other apps. We, in theory, have all the passwords to their accounts. We check text messages and are Facebook friends. We discuss what is good to post and what isn’t. We point out friends who are not making good choices and discuss why it’s a problem. It’s all inconvenient and time-consuming. That’s what parenting is all about.
In case you think I’m just harping on a soapbox, here are some facts from the McAfee study of teen online habits. This set was compiled by Focus on the Family. The original study notes from McAfee are available for pdf download at this link: DIGITAL DIVIDE STUDY. Here are some things to ponder if you have kids at home…
Study Shows Parents Are Unaware of Their Teens’ Online Activity
The 2012 Teen Internet Behavior study shows that there’s a profound disconnect between parents and their teenagers regarding teens’ online activities. The study stated: “Most parents insist they’re in control when it comes to mentoring their teen’s online behavior. Yet, many teens believe their parents are in the dark.”
Here are some of the most surprising results from the survey:
On average, teens spend about five hours a day online; parents think their teens spend an average of three hours a day online.
The study concluded: “Parents must be jolted out of their complacency. A huge gap exists between what teens are doing online and what parents really know.”
SOURCE: McAfee, “The Digital Divide: How the Online Behavior of Teens Is Getting Past Their Parents” (June 2012). Download entire report here.
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